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Article ID: 5423
Age Group: Adult
Posted: February 2nd. 2003
Witch Cinema 12
by Peg Aloi
Greetings Witch Cinema Mavens!
And a happy Imbolc/Oimelc/Candlemas to you all.
At this fallow time of year (except for our friends in the Southern hemisphere, now in the throes of summer!) we are starting to think this "turning inward" stuff is getting kind of old. Winter drags on and we year for fresh air, sunlight, new ways of perceiving the same old stuff. I was in England recently for two weeks and such travel is always good for renewed perspective; even though everyone in England speaks English I am always struck by how very different our cultures are from one another (watch for more on this matter in my interview with professor/author Ronald Hutton; who I spoke with in his offices at the University of Bristol - should be up in a couple weeks!).
One thing that always weirds me out though is how much American culture gets imported there. Perhaps you've heard that the evil McDonald's and Burger King have made their way to Europe. But with the announcement of recent financial losses, maybe these evil fat-spewing death- mongers are on their way out at last. Don't even get me started on AOL/Time-Warner. But the biggest American import (aside from the way everyone in England seems to throw trash all over the streets these days; you didn't see this ten years ago) is Hollywood entertainment. They're big Buffy fans, for example. And they get all our big blockbuster movies around the same time we do. (The big releases there in the last two weeks were Chicago and Two Weeks Notice.
Thanks to the booming market in DVDs, the UK also gets to see little-known American independent films; in some cases, even those that did not get a distribution deal, like the marvelous Donnie Darko, one of my favorite movies from last year. Along with the creepy, atmospheric Session 9 (filmed at the abandoned Danvers State Hospital, in that town which used to be known, some 300-odd years ago, as Salem Village; yes, that Salem Village. That's where it happened, not that touristy seaport everyone flocks to in October). So here's my opportunity to remind all of you who haven't seen these great films that they're now available on DVD!
Speaking of Buffy (think about it: at this moment in time, somewhere in the world, someone is almost certainly talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I found out some disturbing news recently. Despite this show's popularity and its undisputed high quality in writing, acting and directing, it seems to be suffering from a decline in ratings. In fact, when Nielsen issued its sci-fi/fantasy ratings (The "Galaxy Report") recently, Buffy ranked 8th out of 9! This is deplorable. I am sorry to say that the silly, soapy Touched By An Angel ranked first. Next was the implausible but sometimes-fun tale of three witch sisters, Charmed, followed by Enterprise, Sabrina (at least two witch shows are in the top five!), The Twilight Zone (which I thought I heard was about to be cancelled), Smallville, Birds of Prey (never heard of this one; what's it about? Crows? Ravens? Vultures?), then Buffy, and then Mysterious Ways.
I can't even imagine what the reason for this is, except to conclude that a) not enough intelligent pagans and/or Buffy fans have Nielsen boxes in their homes; b) middle America and the Bible Belt watch a lot of TV and they like that show where the angels touch everybody, or c) teenagers comprise a large percentage of the viewing audience and they prefer the more light-hearted/less-intense Charmed and Sabrina to the ever-deepening intensity and brutality of Buffy. Then there are the rumors that UPN may axe the show after Season 7 concludes, and Sarah Michelle Gellar may opt not to renew her contract.
Dear readers, do not let this happen. Please watch this most excellent show. Its beauty, intelligence and emotional power make most of what's on TV look like absolute crap (which, admittedly, most of it is). While you're at it, and so you don't think I'm playing favorites, I'll recommend some of my other favorite shows that don't happen to have witches or vampires in them:
Third Watch (NBC): a brilliantly-acted, sharply-written drama following the lives of cops, firefighters and EMTS. This one got even better after 9-11, believe it or not. Okay, on to other news:
Crossing Jordan (NBC): set in Boston, this drama about a forensics lab is sexy, smart and quirky, with an occasional touch of magic realism in the plot.
Monarch of the Glen (PBS): the latest BBC import, set on a remote estate in the Scottish Highlands. A young Londoner finds himself suddenly responsible for managing the family legacy he left behind years ago. Misty mountains, bagpipes and gorgeous men in kilts - what else do you want?
The West Wing (NBC): As awesome as ever. Martin Sheen (who has been in his share of creepy horror movies) is the President we all want in real life, and Stockard Channing (who played a witch in Practical Magic!) is his sassy First Lady.
The Simpsons (NBC): Ten years and going strong. I can't believe this show is still as good as it ever was. Classic satire and comedy at its best, masquerading innocently as an adult cartoon. Other edgy animated series have come and gone, unfortunately, like The Family Guy, victims of the old time-slot switcheroo, but nothing will edge out this one.
The Wicker Man Conference to be held this summer at the University of Glasgow has moved to July 18-20 (previously scheduled for July 14-15). Mark your calendars! I hoe to attend, although this event occurs smack-dab in the middle of my annual retreat to Brushwood Folklore Center. I recently found a website where you can order the excellent journal devoted to all things Summerisle, Nuada. You can order it from the publisher at www.stoke5399.freeserve.co.uk. Order all three issues and get a discount! I have an article appearing in Issue #4.
I also have an essay appearing in an as-yet-untitled anthology of writings on Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be published by BenBella Books. Watch for that later this year. Also, for anyone interested, I had a piece on Witchcraft in movies and TV in the latest Llewellyn Wicca Almanac for 2003. I was disappointed to find a number of grammatical errors in this article which I am fairly certain weren't there when I wrote it!
Other new stuff:
Neil Gaiman's amazing novel American Gods won the Hugo Award for best novel of the year. If you have not read this incredible book, run out and get a copy. One of my students lent it to me and I could not put it down once I started it. Gaiman's premise is intriguing: what if the old gods of Europe came over to America with the immigrants and explorers who worshipped them? And what if their avatars are constantly reborn over centuries, but are slowly dying out? How could their worship be rekindled?
UPN will be offering a new series based on the Arthurian saga called "Kamelot." Yes, that's with a "K." As the title might suggest, the story is moved into the future and Arthur is transformed into a young revolutionary hero. You never know, it might be the next Highlander. Except, well, it's been done before.
A new digital video documentary about crop circles will be released this coming August. Crop Circles: Quest for Truth was made by an award-winning filmmaker who also made Waco: The Rules of Engagement which was nominated for an Academy Award. Shot on location in England and throughout the world, this film promises to be an in-depth exploration of this fascinating phenomena.
Mmmmm. Crop circles. Golden fields of grain in the midsummer sun. Raggle-taggle hippies and pagan pilgrims converging in magical mandalas that defy explanation. The fields of Wiltshire at summer solstice. Avebury with a rainbow arcing overhead.
Now: It's raining and cold outside. No sun in the forecast for days and days. Something's wrong with this picture. Must huddle beneath the covers and find a video to watch.
Until next time, friends...
Media Coordinator - The Witches' Voice
Monday, February, 3rd. 2003
Email: [Staff Email]
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